Sign In

Therapy dog visits children at home

April 1, 2020

These are difficult, anxious times for families holed up with small children. Ladd is here to help.

The service dog normally does his calming and comforting at North Arlington’s Zentai Martial Arts studio. But these days, Allen DePeña, owner and operator of Zentai Martial Arts, has been taking him around to his younger students’ homes to deliver bags full of slime and coloring pages and crayons.

“My idea was for him to go around to the kids and brighten up their days,” DePeña said. “I’ve had lots of conversations with families who are struggling, who have lost jobs or members of their family.”

DePeña has Ladd (formally known as Ladd III) sit on the doorstep while he remains farther back, adhering to social distancing rules. DePeña said he originally was just going to drop the bags on porches but thought a familiar furry face would lift kids’ spirits more.

DePeña said he received numerous messages from parents after he and Ladd dropped off the goodie bags. Parents told him that seeing Ladd put smiles on their faces and lifted their children’s moods.

“It’s very emotional, it’s very touching to see the level of impact he’s having on the families,” DePeña said.

Not only does Ladd bring treats for kids who can no longer attend martial arts classes at the studio, but he also helps the children at Zentai’s child care. Zentai has been licensed as a child care center for two years.

DePeña said that they are operating at 15% to 20% capacity because of social distancing. His wife, Naomy, a retired special needs teacher, is caring for at least 15 children. DePeña said they are the children of essential workers.

On Wednesday, Gov Phil Murphy told day care centers that unless they certify to the state that they are caring only for children of essential workers, they will have to be closed by April 1.

The DePeñas got Ladd on Valentine’s Day after a long application process that began two years ago. They were finally invited to a two-week training at Canine Companion for Independence’s campus and trained to work with Ladd.

“It could not have happened at a better time to have him be part of the community,” DePeña said. “Just because of everything going on right now and him being there for these kids.”

He has been very beneficial for the children at the child care center and is therapeutic for the children, DePeña said.

The DePeñas are also using Zoom, a video conferencing app, to provide free martial arts classes for children and bedtime stories. DePeña’s son helps out by teaching breathing and stretching techniques in the morning before school.

DePeña said it’s “amazing” to see the children interact during the virtual classes and that it has helped some shy children come out of their shells.

“Right now, one of our main concerns is keeping [children] physically active to help them not get too anxious or into a depressed state of mind,” DePeña said. “It can easily happen with all this cabin fever.”

COVID-19 and pets

The CDC has said there is no evidence that pets and other animals could be a source of the coronavirus but recommends practicing good hygiene when encountering them because they could carry other germs.

After petting or handling animals, their food, supplies and waste, people should wash their hands.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Therapy Dog In School

    A Derry primary school this week welcomed a new member of staff – its very own therapy dog. Joy will be used to provide comfort and reassurance to pupils at St Oliver Plunkett Primary School after studies have shown that therapy dogs have a positive impact on children’s mood and behaviour. St Oliver Plunkett is […]

    Read more

    Polices Therapy Dog

    The Great Barrington police department is holding a swearing in ceremony Friday for its new therapy dog, Officer Beko. Beko is a 16-week old black lab and works with Officer Kris Balestro. Beko’s training, certification and care are funded by donations from the local community. Officer Beko is the first therapy dog to join a […]

    Read more

    BarkBox Launching Essentials

    If your dog loves to monitor your work when you’re cooking, generally gets underfoot the entire time and sees “taste tester” as their official title, these new dog toys may be essential in your kitchen. Starting Oct. 1, Bed, Bath & Beyond is introducing a new line, specifically tailored to your dog’s kitchen needs. In […]

    Read more

    Coco The Therapy Dog

    Emergencies and tragedies can have a deep emotional effect on the first responders who do their best to provide help. “Most people don’t understand the wear and tear that the responders see on a daily basis. It does build up on them and can cause issues,” said Patrick Brandt, director of Delaware County Emergency Communications. […]

    Read more

    Seizure Alert Dog

    One girl’s journey to get a service dog ends on a happy note. Addi Lewis, 7, lives with epilepsy. As we reported in November 2019, the Tri-Cities community rallied behind her with fundraising efforts. It costs $20,000 to get a medical alert dog. Generous community donations of roughly $10,000, a $2,500 grant and a $15,000 […]

    Read more

    Four-Legged Friends On Campus

    A yellow English Labrador is among the newest members of the Loras College campus community this fall. Toksi, a service dog in training, goes to class with sophomore Ciera Hansen to help her classmates adjust to seeing service animals at the school. That will come in handy as students start to take on an active […]

    Read more